Saint Brigid of Kildare
Naomh Bríd Chill Dara
St. Bride Carried By Angels, a painting by Scottish artist, John Duncan, 1913.
|Virgin, abbess, inspirer|
Faughart, Dundalk, Ireland
(in modern County Louth)
|Died||c. 525 (age 72)|
|Venerated in|| Eastern Orthodox Church |
Roman Catholic Church
|Attributes||an abbess with a shepherd's staff and flames over her head, with a lamp or candle, sometimes with a cow, ducks or geese|
|Patronage||babies; blacksmiths; boatmen; brewers; cattle; chicken farmers; children whose parents are not married; children with abusive fathers; children born into abusive unions; Clan Douglas; dairymaids; dairy workers; Florida; fugitives; infants; Ireland; Leinster, mariners; midwives; milk maids; nuns; poets; poor; poultry farmers; poultry raisers; printing presses; sailors; scholars; travellers; watermen|
Saint Brigid of Kildare or Brigid of Ireland (Irish : Naomh Bríd; Latin : Brigida; c. 451 –525) is one of Ireland's patron saints, along with Patrick and Columba. Irish hagiography makes her an early Irish Christian nun, abbess, and foundress of several monasteries of nuns, including that of Kildare in Ireland, which was famous and was revered. Her feast day is 1 February, which was originally a pagan festival called Imbolc, marking the beginning of spring. Her feast day is shared by Dar Lugdach, who tradition says was her student, close companion, and the woman who succeeded her.
The saint shares her name with an important Celtic goddess and there are many legends and folk customs associated with her.
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The saint has the same name as the goddess Brigid, derived from the Proto-Celtic *Brigantī "high, exalted" and ultimately originating with Proto-Indo-European *bʰerǵʰ-. In Old Irish her name was spelled Brigit and pronounced [ˈbʲrʲiɣʲidʲ] . In Modern Irish she is called Bríd. In Welsh she is called Ffraid (lenited to Fraid), as in several places called Llansanffraid, "St Brigit's church"). She is sometimes referred to as "the Mary of the Gael".
There is some debate over whether St Brigid was a real person. She has the same name, associations and feast day as the Celtic goddess Brigid, and there are many supernatural events, legends and folk customs associated with her.
Some scholars suggest that the saint is a Christianization of the goddess, others that she was a real person whose mythos took on the goddess's attributes. Medieval art historian Pamela Berger argues that Christian monks "took the ancient figure of the mother goddess and grafted her name and functions onto her Christian counterpart". 73 Professor Dáithí Ó hÓgáin and others suggest that the saint had been chief druid at the temple of the goddess Brigid, and was responsible for converting it into a Christian monastery. After her death, the name and characteristics of the goddess became attached to the saint.:
Probably the earliest biography, The Life of St Brigid, was written by Cogitosus, a monk of Kildare in the seventh century, and is a fine example of Irish scholarship in the mid-seventh century. A second First Life or Vita Prima of St Brigid is by an unknown author, although it is often attributed to St Broccán Clóen (d. 650). This book is occasionally argued to be the first written Life of St. Brigid, although most scholars reject this claim. The Life attributed to Coelan dating ca. 625, derives further significance from the fact that a foreword was later added to it by St Donatus, also an Irish monk, who became Bishop of Fiesole in 824. Donatus refers to earlier biographies by St Ultan and St Aileran. These differing biographies, giving conflicting accounts of her life, have much literary merit in themselves.
In the controversy about the historical existence of Brigid that erupted in the last third of the 20th century, researchers noted that eleven people with whom Brigid is associated in her Lives are independently attested in annalistic sources which place her death at AD 523 (in the Annals of Tigernach and Chronicon Scotorum ) and her birth at 451 (calculated from her reputed age of 72 at death).
According to tradition, Brigid was born in the year 451 AD in Faughart,just north of Dundalk in County Louth, Ireland. Because of the legendary quality of the earliest accounts of her life, there is debate among many secular scholars and Christians as to the authenticity of her biographies. Three biographies agree that her mother was Brocca, a Christian Pict slave who had been baptized by Saint Patrick. They name her father as Dubhthach, a chieftain of Leinster.
The vitae say that Dubthach's wife forced him to sell Brigid's mother to a druid when she became pregnant. Brigid herself was born into slavery. Legends of her early holiness include her vomiting when the druid tried to feed her, due to his impurity; a white cow with red ears appeared to sustain her instead.
As she grew older, Brigid performed miracles, including healing and feeding the poor. According to one tale, as a child, she once gave away her mother's entire store of butter. The butter was then replenished in answer to Brigid's prayers.Around the age of ten, she was returned as a household servant to her father, where her habit of charity led her to donate his belongings to anyone who asked.
In two Lives, Dubthach was so annoyed with her that he took her in a chariot to the King of Leinster to sell her. While Dubthach was talking to the king, Brigid gave away his jewelled sword to a beggar to barter it for food to feed his family. The king recognized her holiness and convinced Dubthach to grant his daughter her freedom.
It is said that Brigid was "veiled" or received either by St Mac Caill at Croghan, or by St Mél of Ardagh at Mág Tulach (the present barony of Fartullagh, County Westmeath), who granted her abbatial powers. It is said that in about 468, she and a Bishop MacCaille followed St Mél into the Kingdom of Tethbae, which was made up of parts of the modern counties Meath, Westmeath and Longford.
According to tradition, around 480 Brigid founded a monastery at Kildare (Cill Dara: "church of the oak"), on the site of a pagan shrine to the Celtic goddess Brigid, served by a group of young women who tended an eternal flame. The site was under a large oak tree on the ridge of Drum Criadh.
Brigid, with an initial group of seven companions, is credited with organizing communal consecrated religious life for women in Ireland.She founded two monastic institutions, one for men, and the other for women, and invited Conleth (Conláed), a hermit from Old Connell near Newbridge, to help her in Kildare as pastor of them. It has often been said that she gave canonical jurisdiction to Conleth, Bishop of Kildare, but Archbishop Healy says that she simply "selected the person to whom the Church gave this jurisdiction", and her biographer tells us that she chose Saint Conleth "to govern the church along with herself". For centuries, Kildare was ruled by a double line of abbot-bishops and of abbesses, the Abbess of Kildare being regarded as superior general of the monasteries in Ireland. Her successors have always been accorded episcopal honour. Brigid's oratory at Kildare became a centre of religion and learning, and developed into a cathedral city.
Brigid is credited with founding a school of art, including metalwork and illumination, which Conleth oversaw. The Kildare scriptorium made the Book of Kildare, which drew high praise from Gerald of Wales (Giraldus Cambrensis), but disappeared during the Reformation. According to Giraldus, nothing that he ever saw was at all comparable to the book, every page of which was gorgeously illuminated, and the interlaced work and the harmony of the colours left the impression that "all this is the work of angelic, and not human skill".
According to the Trias Thaumaturga Brigid spent time in Connacht and founded many churches in the Diocese of Elphin. She is said to have visited Longford, Tipperary, Limerick, and South Leinster.Her friendship with Saint Patrick is noted in the following paragraph from the Book of Armagh: "inter sanctum Patricium Brigitanque Hibernesium columpnas amicitia caritatis inerat tanta, ut unum cor consiliumque haberent unum. Christus per illum illamque virtutes multas peregit" (Between St Patrick and St Brigid, the pillars of the Irish people, there was so great a friendship of charity that they had but one heart and one mind. Through him and through her Christ performed many great works.)
The monk Ultan of Ardbraccan, who wrote a life of Brigid, recounts a story that Darlugdach, Brigid's favourite pupil, fell in love with a young man and, hoping to meet him, sneaked out of the bed in which she and Brigid were sleeping. However, recognising her spiritual peril, she prayed for guidance, then placed burning embers in her shoes and put them on. “Thus, by fire,”Ultan wrote, “she put out fire, and by pain extinguished pain.”She then returned to bed. Brigid feigned sleep, but was aware of Darlugdach's departure. The next day, Darlugdach revealed to Brigid the experience of the night before. Brigid reassured her that she was “now safe from the fire of passion and the fire of hell hereafter” and then healed her student's feet. So devoted was the student to her teacher that when Brigid lay dying Darlughdach expressed the wish to die with her, but Brigid replied that Darlugdach should die on the anniversary of her (Brigid's) death.
St Brigid is said to have been given the last rites by St Ninnidh when she was dying. Afterwards, he reportedly had his right hand encased in metal so that it would never be defiled, and became known as "Ninnidh of the Clean Hand".Tradition says she died at Kildare on 1 February 525.
Upon St Brigid's death, Darlugdach became the second abbess of Kildare. Brigid's prediction has traditionally been considered to have been realized inasmuch as the Catholic Church records Darlugdach's date of death as 522 and Brigid's as 521 and has assigned 1 February as the feast day of both saints.(The name Darlugdach (also spelled Dar Lugdach, Dar Lugdacha, or Dar Lughdacha) means "daughter of the god Lugh".)
Brigid is celebrated for her generosity to the poor. In her case, most of the miracles associated with her relate to healing and household tasks usually attributed to women.
Brigid is said to have been buried at the right of the high altar of Kildare Cathedral, and a costly tomb raised over her"adorned with gems and precious stones and crowns of gold and silver". Over the years her shrine became an object of veneration for pilgrims, especially on her feast day, 1 February. About the year 878, owing to the Scandinavian raids, Brigid's purported relics were reburied in the tomb of Patrick and Columba. In 1185, John de Courcy had their remains reburied in Down Cathedral.
Brigid, "the Mary of the Gael," is esteemed highly in Ireland.
St Brigid's popularity made the name Brigid (or its variants such as Brigitte, Bridie, and Bree) popular in Ireland over the centuries. One writer noted that at one time in history “every Irish family had a Patrick and a Brigid”.In the nineteenth century as many Irish women emigrated to England seeking jobs as housemaids, the name Brigid became virtually synonymous with the word woman.
According to Denis Murphy, when the relics of the saints were destroyed in the sixteenth century during the deputyship of Lord Grey, Brigid's head was saved by some of the clergy who took it to the Neustadt, in Austria. In 1587 it was presented to the church of the Society of Jesus in Lisbon by Emperor Rudolph II.Since 1587 a skull said to be Brigid's has been preserved in the Igreja São João Baptista (Church of St. John the Baptist, ), on the Lumiar in Portugal (near Lisbon Airport), where it is venerated on 2 February (not 1 February, as in Ireland). St Brigid's head was reputedly carried to King Denis of Portugal in 1283 by Irish knights travelling to the Aragonese Crusade.
The inscription on the Lumiar tomb reads: "Here in these three tombs lie the three Irish knights who brought the head of St Brigid, Virgin, a native of Ireland, whose relic is preserved in this chapel. In memory of which, the officials of the Altar of the same Saint caused this to be done in January AD 1283."
In 1884 Cardinal Archbishop Moran of Sydney obtained a relic of the saint's tooth from the parochial church of St Martin of Tours in Cologne,Germany and gave it to the Brigidine Sisters in Melbourne. The Cardinal wrote about the circumstances in which he obtained the tooth in a letter to the Rev.Mother of this Convent dated 13 March 1906:
I went all the way to Cologne on my return from Rome in 1884, on my appointment of Archbishop of Sydney to secure a portion of the precious relic of St. Brigid preserved there for over a thousand years. It is venerated at present in the Parochial Church of St. Martin to which in olden times was attached a famous Irish monastery….. The relic is, if I remember aright, a tooth of the Saint. At Cologne I found great difficulty in securing a portion of this relic. It was at first peremptorily refused. The Pastor of St. Martin’s declared that his parishioners would be at once in revolt if they heard that their great parochial treasure was being interfered with. I then had to invoke the aid of an influential Canon of the Cathedral of Cologne, whom I had assisted in some of his literary pursuits and he set his heart on procuring the coveted relic. One of his arguments was somewhat amusing: It was the first time that an Irish Archbishop of the remote See of Sydney had solicited a favour from Cologne. It was the new Christian world appealing to the old for a share of its sacred wealth. At all events our pleading was successful and, and I bore away with me a portion of the bone, duly authenticated, which is now the privilege of you good Sisters to guard and venerate….
In 1905 Sister Mary Agnes of the Dundalk Convent of Mercy took a purported fragment of the skull to St Bridget's[ sic ] Church in Kilcurry. In 1928, Fathers Timothy Traynor and James McCarroll requested another fragment for St Brigid's Church in Killester, a request granted by the Bishop of Lisbon, António Mendes Belo.
The city of Armagh had several associations with St Brigid. In the twelfth century, the city had two crosses dedicated to Brigid, though, according to the Monasticon Hibernicum, purported relics of the saint reposing in Armagh were lost in an accidental fire in 1179. In the seventeenth century Armagh also had a street named Brigid located near Brigid's church in the area called “Brigid’s Ward.”
In liturgical iconography and statuary Saint Brigid is often depicted holding a reed cross, a crozier of the sort used by abbots, and a lamp. Early hagiographers portray Brigid's life and ministry as touched with fire. According to Patrick Weston Joyce, tradition holds that nuns at her monastery kept an eternal flame burning there.Leitmotifs, some of them borrowed from the apocrypha such as the story where she hangs her cloak on a sunbeam, are associated with the wonder tales of her hagiography and folklore. In her Lives, Brigid is portrayed as having the power to multiply such things as butter, bacon and milk, to bestow sheep and cattle and to control the weather.
Plant motifs associated with St Brigid include the white Lilium candidum popularly known since medieval times as the Madonna Lily for its association with the Virgin Mary, and the Windflower Anemone coronaria , called the "Brigid anemone" since the early 19th century. Kildare, the church of the oak Quercus petraea , is associated with a tree sacred to the druids. The colour associated with Brigid is white, worn not only by the Kildare United Irishmen during the 1798 rebellion, but also by Kildare sports teams in more recent times.
The Biddy is honoured every year at the weekend closest to the feast day of St Brigid, 1 February in the mid-Kerry region, with Biddy groups visiting rural and public houses. They carry a hay-stuffed Brídeóg doll with them to ensure evil spirits are kept away from humans and animals for the coming year. The Biddy heritage is a mixture of Christianity (St Bridgid) and ancient Celtic traditions (Imbolc). Imbolc is one of the four Celtic festivals, along with Lá Bealtaine (Mayday), Lughnasa (1 August) and Samhain (1 November). 2 Traditionally, a visit from the Biddy guaranteed good luck, fertility, prosperity and to not receive a visit was considered a slight. In 2017 a festival was created in Killorglin, Co.Kerry to celebrate the age old Biddy tradition. The highlights of the festival is the torchlight Parade of the Biddys, Traditional Irish music sessions and the King of the Biddies competition.:
Judy Chicago's epic feminist artwork The Dinner Party features a place setting for Saint Brigid on the triangular table's second wing, designated for iconographic women from the beginnings of Christianity to the Reformation.
In Haitian Vodou, Saint Brigid (along with the goddess Brigid and Mary Magdalene) is worshipped as the death loa Maman Brigitte, the consort of Baron Samedi.
Brigid of Ireland, or of Kildare, has been venerated since the early Middle Ages, along with Patrick and Columba, as one of the three national Christian patron saints of Ireland. ... At least two Latin Lives had been composed by the end of the seventh century describing her as a nobleman's daughter who chose to consecrate her virginity to God, took the veil as a Christian nun, and became the leader of a community of religious women, or perhaps of both women and men-certainly by the seventh century there was an important double monastery at Kildare that regarded her as its founder.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Brigid of Kildare .|
Imbolc or Imbolg, also called (Saint) Brigid's Day, is a Gaelic traditional festival marking the beginning of spring. It is held on 1 February, or about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Historically, it was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals—along with Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain—and corresponds to the Welsh Gŵyl Fair y Canhwyllau. For Christians, especially in Ireland, it is the feast day of Saint Brigid.
Brigit, Brigid or Bríg was a goddess of pre-Christian Ireland. She appears in Irish mythology as a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the daughter of the Dagda and wife of Bres, with whom she had a son named Ruadán.
Brigid's cross or Brigit's cross is a small cross usually woven from rushes. Typically it has four arms tied at the ends and a woven square in the middle. Historically, there were also three-armed versions.
Kildare is a town in County Kildare, Ireland. As of 2016, its population was 8,634 making it the 7th largest town in County Kildare. The town lies on the R445, some 50 km (31 mi) west of Dublin – near enough for it to have become, despite being a regional centre in its own right, a commuter town for the capital. Although Kildare gives its name to the county, Naas is the county town.
Íte ingen Chinn Fhalad, also known as Ita, Ida or Ides, was an early Irish nun and patron saint of Killeedy. She was known as the "foster mother of the saints of Erin". The name "Ita" was conferred on her because of her saintly qualities. Her feast day is 15 January.
Breage or Breaca is a saint venerated in Cornwall and southwestern Britain. According to her late hagiography, she was an Irish nun of the 5th or 6th century who founded a church in Cornwall. The village and civil parish of Breage in Cornwall are named after her, and the local Breage Parish Church is dedicated to her.
Oughterard is an ecclesiastical hilltop site, graveyard, townland, and formerly a parish, borough and royal manor in County Kildare, nowadays part of the community of Ardclough, close to the Dublin border. It is the burial place of Arthur Guinness.
Saint Mél or Moel was a 5th-century saint in Ireland who was a nephew of Saint Patrick. He was the son of Conis and Saint Patrick's sister, Darerca. Saint Darerca was known as the "mother of saints" because most of her children entered religious life, many were later recognized as saints, and several of her sons became bishops.
Saint Moninne of Killeavy was one of Ireland's early female saints. After instruction in the religious life, she founded a community, initially consisting of eight virgins and a widow with a baby, at Slieve Gullion, in what became County Armagh. They lived an eremitical life, based on that of Elijah and Saint John the Baptist. Moninne died in 517. Her feast day is 6 July.
Erc mac Dega, also known (incorrectly) as Herygh, was an Irish saint. He was active in Cornwall. Tradition ascribes the foundation of the original monastery on the Hill of Slane to him.
The United Dioceses of Meath and Kildare is a diocese in the Church of Ireland located in the Republic of Ireland. The diocese is in the ecclesiastical province of Dublin. Alone of English and Irish bishops who are not also archbishops, the Bishop of Meath and Kildare is styled "The Most Reverend".
The Bishop of Kildare was an episcopal title which took its name after the town of Kildare in County Kildare, Ireland. The title is no longer in use by any of the main Christian churches having been united with other bishoprics. In the Roman Catholic Church, the title has been merged with that of the bishopric of Leighlin and is currently held by the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin. In the Church of Ireland, the title has been merged with that of the bishopric of Meath and is currently held by the Bishop of Meath and Kildare.
Bridget or Brigid is a Gaelic/Irish female name derived from the noun brígh, meaning "power, strength, vigor, virtue". An alternate meaning of the name is "exalted one". Its popularity, especially in Ireland, is largely related to the popularity of Saint Brigid of Kildare, who was so popular in Ireland she was known as "Mary of the Gael". This saint took on many of the characteristics of the early Celtic goddess Brigid, who was the goddess of agriculture and healing and possibly also of poetry and fire. One of her epithets was "Brigid of the Holy Fire". In German and Scandinavian countries, the popularity of the name spread due to Saint Bridget of Sweden.
Cogitosus was an Irish monk and writer. Cogitosus was a monk of Kildare who wrote the oldest extant vita of Saint Brigit, Vita Sanctae Brigidae, around 650. There is a controversy as to whether he was related to Saint Brigit.
Kildare Abbey is a former monastery in County Kildare, Ireland, founded by St Brigid in the 5th century, and destroyed in the 12th century.
The Cathedral Church of St. Brigid, Kildare in Kildare, County Kildare is one of two cathedrals in the United Dioceses of Meath and Kildare of the Church of Ireland in Ireland. It is in the ecclesiastical province of Dublin.
Dubthach maccu Lugair, is a legendary Irish poet and lawyer who supposedly lived at the time of St Patrick's mission in Ireland and in the reign of Lóegaire mac Néill, high-king of Ireland, to which Dubthach served as Chief Poet and Brehon. In contrast to the king and his druids, he is said to have readily accepted the new religion. This event has played a major part in Hiberno-Latin and Irish sources as representing the integration of native Irish learning with the Christian faith.
Briganti is the Proto-Celtic term for Brighid, or Brigid. The name *Brigantī means "The High One", cognate with the name of the ancient British goddess Brigantia (goddess), the Old High German personal name Burgunt, and the Sanskrit word Bṛhatī (बृहती) "high", an epithet of the Hindu dawn goddess Ushas. The ultimate source is Proto-Indo-European *bʰr̥ǵʰéntih₂, derived from the root *bʰerǵʰ-.
Saint Bríga is venerated as foundress of the monastery of Oughter Ard in Ardclough County Kildare . Her feast day is 21 January. Bríga is also associated with Brideschurch near Sallins, and possibly with Kilbride in County Waterford.
Dar Lugdach was the immediate successor of Brigid of Kildare as abbess of Kildare, and is recognised as a saint. She is recorded as having died one year to the day after Brigid, and shares the same feast day as the more famous abbess. Little is known of her family history.